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Cervical Anatomy

The cervical region consists of 7 cervical vertebrae (C1-C7), with intervertebral discs between each vertebra that function to provide flexibility to the backbone. Intervertebral discs are soft, compressible structures consisting of a hard-outer ring called the annulus and a gel-like center called the nucleus.

What is Cervical Disc Herniation?

Herniation of a disc is an anomalous spine condition characterized by the bulging of the inner contents of the intervertebral disc due to cracks in its outer wall. A herniated disc is commonly seen in the cervical or neck region and is called cervical herniated disc (CHD). This condition is frequently reported in people between 30-40 years of age as well as elderly people.

Causes of Cervical Herniated Disc

The foremost causes and risk factors involved in the development of cervical herniated disc are advanced age, trauma or injury, abrupt neck movements, smoking, and genetic factors.

Symptoms of Cervical Herniated Disc

The usual symptoms associated with a cervical herniated disc are pain and numbness in the neck, shoulders, chest, arms, and hands, followed by weakness in the associated region.

Diagnosis of Cervical Herniated Disc

The diagnosis of a cervical herniated disc involves reviewing your medical history and performing a physical examination. Physical examination may also involve the analysis of the neck movements to determine the source of pain and related injured tissues. Furthermore, various new advanced imaging techniques such as MRI scan, myelogram, CT scan, X-rays, electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests, are widely used for accurate diagnosis, as confirmatory tests.

Treatment of Cervical Herniated Disc

The well-established non-surgical interventions for CHD include adequate rest, massage of the neck, ice or heat compression, physical therapy, strengthening exercises, chiropractic care, and medications, including epidural steroid injections. In addition, widely accepted holistic therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, and nutritional supplements are also extensively used.

The treatment of CHD begins with conservative (non-surgical) methods, as reports show that around 90% of patients may return to normal activity by employing these interventions for at least 6 weeks.

Surgery is recommended if you do not respond to non-surgical measures. Moreover, numerous other factors such as your age, other underlying medical conditions, previous neck surgeries and duration of suffering are considered before deciding on surgery.

Highly advanced surgical techniques such as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), artificial disc replacement and posterior cervical discectomy have shown tremendous results and explore a new era of cervical herniated disc treatment. Due to further advancement in technology, discectomy can be performed through minimally invasive techniques that employ a small incision for the operation. These advanced techniques have reduced the recovery time and improved success rate.

Nathan Walters, MDDouble Board Certified & fellowship-trained
pain management specialist
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